For a somewhat inexperienced Minnesota softball team, the weekend could not have gone better.
The Gophers either won or were an at-bat away from a win in each of the five games played at the Metrodome tournament this weekend, following up their two wins Thursday with a win over Drake and two close losses to Northern Iowa and Arkansas.
georgia southern tournament
when: Time TBA, Friday
where: Statesboro, Ga.
And with the added experience of early-season games, junior pitcher Briana Hassett said the team can now start setting some stronger goals.
"We're proud of what we've done and that we kept fighting in every game," Hassett said. "But now we need to set the bar higher. That's why we're excited for next week."
Minnesota faced off against Northern Iowa Friday, falling to the Panthers despite some clutch hitting.
Two mistake pitches cost junior pitcher Katie Dalen her second win of the year Friday, as a three-run homer and a two-run triple in the fifth and sixth innings opened the game up for the Panthers, who struggled at the plate otherwise.
Aside from the fifth and sixth innings, Dalen was in control, allowing just one hit over the first four innings, causing junior catcher Shannon Stemper to praise her pitcher's effort and shake off the two mistake pitches.
"Every pitcher's going to make mistakes throughout the game, they just capitalized on ours and we didn't," she said.
Down 6-1 in the seventh, the Gophers put together a rally with a pair of runs, and had an opportunity to tie or take the lead, with the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs, but couldn't complete the comeback, losing their first game of the tourney, 3-6.
Minnesota made up for its inability to complete the rally Friday with a come-from-behind win Saturday.
After scoring four runs over the first three innings, the Gophers fell behind as Drake rallied for three in the fourth, and added one on a long homer to left in the fifth.
Down 4-6, Minnesota's bats reemerged, as senior second baseman Amber Nelsen tripled home a run in the sixth and the Gophers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh.
In a tie game, freshman shortstop Brianna Sudenga singled home the winning run as Minnesota topped the Bulldogs 7-6.
Arkansas presented Hassett with a pitchers' duel in the final game of the weekend, and took advantage of a misjudged pop fly to keep the first inning alive.
The Razorbacks eventually homered in the inning, taking a 2-0 lead that would hold through five innings.
But Minnesota's bats came alive once more in the sixth, as junior third baseman Colleen Conway and senior left fielder Sila Fernandez hit back-to-back singles, and Stemper singled down the right-field line to score one run and send Fernandez to third with one out.
But Fernandez stayed at third on a fly-out to left field, and the rally died as the Gophers were unable to push the run across. Minnesota went quietly in the seventh to lose 2-1.
Stemper had one of the better tournaments for Minnesota, as the catcher collected five hits and seven RBIs over the weekend. Fernandez collected nine hits. Stemper did a good job of taking pitches to the opposite field, something co-head coach Lisa Bernstein praised her team for.
"I'm really pleased with our hitting right now," she said. "Our kids are aggressive and hungry at the plate. They're doing great."
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